Westminster Theological Seminary Joins Texas Universities' Suit Against HHS

A seminary in Pennsylvania has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of two Texas universities suing the Department of Health and Human Services over their "Preventive Services" mandate.

Westminster Theological Seminary of Glenside filed the motion Friday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division.

"Westminster claims an interest in the transaction that is the subject of this action. Westminster is a graduate level theological seminary which adheres to the historic Reformed understanding of the Christian faith," reads the motion in part. "As such, it is resolutely opposed, on biblical and First Amendment grounds, to the federal agencies' mandate being challenged here that requires it to provide its employees health insurance coverage for, and thereby encourage its employees to use, abortifacient drugs."

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James M. Sweet, general counsel and vice president for Institutional Advancement at Westminster Theological Seminary, told The Christian Post that the issue was not about contraception.

"The decision to join was formally made last week by the Seminary's Board of Trustees but it has been under discussion by the Trustees for several months. We have no issue with contraception as we make clear in our papers," said Sweet. "Our issue is with the required inclusion of so-called abortifacient drugs that the government, through the mandate, requires be present in our policy or, alternatively, if we seek the accommodation offered by the government, in the policies of each and every one of our employees."

The case that the motion was written for came from East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) and Houston Baptist University (HBU), which filed a suit against HHS in October 2012.

The two Baptist academic institutes filed the suit in large part to aid the challenges by Roman Catholic organizations over the claim that the HHS mandate violates their religious liberty.

In an earlier interview with The Christian Post, Dr. John Mark Reynolds, provost at HBU, argued that the suit was about religious liberty.

"Baptists know that when another brother or sister Christian's religious freedom is transgressed by the state, no citizens are free. It isn't a 'Catholic' issue when religious freedom is transgressed: it is an American issue," said Reynolds. "If the state can force Catholic charities to transgress their conscience, then the government is on a path to destroy the first freedom: freedom of religion."

Last month, the Obama Administration proposed a new compromise to the HHS' controversial "preventive services" mandate. This latest compromise expanded the number of religious entities that could be exempted from providing contraception and abortifacients to include social service organizations, religious universities, and religious hospitals.

However Catholic leader and organizations like The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty stated that the latest compromise was not enough and lacked certain safeguards regarding conscience protection.

As these suits continue, Congress is considering H.R. 940. Titled the "Health Care Conscience Rights Act," the bill is presently in committee and now has 66 cosponsors.

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